All posts by devans

I don’t think this is OK either…

Two articles brought me here this morning and influence my own approach to resisting the current state of affairs.  First was Finji’s blog entry, This Is Not OK.  It was a nice summary of the sorry state that has become reality with the takeover of U.S. government by Trump and Friends.  Like many others, it is a statement that they do not accept what has happened and will be an ongoing voice and force for change and resistance.

I applauded that post.  The second article was about The Indivisible Guide.  Like Finji, these folks want to resist the Trumpian era and do all they can to restore decency, integrity, and honor to American politics and leadership.

But the Indivisible Guide suggests tactics that I am not comfortable with.  Their tactic is simple: block everything, don’t offer alternatives.  Even the folks at CrimEthnic.com offer some sort of alternative (yes, I consider anarchy an alternative).

I have no problem with resisting and blocking the coming tide of indecent, dishonest, and harmful moves that are the goal of Trump, McConnell, Ryan, Roberts, and friends.  But I also believe we need to provide a vision of a healthy, inclusive, and affirming alternative.

One View of the 2016 Election

I’ve been pondering the 2016 election and what it means, what message it carries about the state of our world.  One analysis is that a growing number of Americans, especially the young, find our historical political processes irrelevant and not important in their daily lives.  The cultural shifts of the past 50 or so years (post-WWII) and especially since the turn of the century have strengthened the appeal of individualism and self-selected groups.  

Our ties to a national identity have been weakened by disillusionment with national ventures such as unwinnable wars (Korea, Vietnam, both Gulf wars, Eastern Europe, the mideast quagmire unleashed by our “war on terror”); a long and constant vocal dislike by large swaths of Americans with our president (be it Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush, or Obama); continuing low approvals of Congress; revelations of widespread government snooping and law-breaking; and an economy that has shown its weakness through savings and loan failures, dot-com spikes and crashes, and devastating recession caused by bank and corporate greed. The diverse and fluid nature of 21st Century America makes it hard to get behind a war effort when the people being killed and attacked come from the same religion and ethnic background as some of our dearest personal friends.  And the rise of LGBT issues and same-sex marriage illustrates how we increasingly see equal rights and respect for all people as more important than tradition or legal precedent.  We see issues of respect and tolerance in more personal terms in our daily lives.

Perhaps the youth of this year’s election looked around and basically decided that what happens in Washington or state legislatures has very little relevance in their daily lives.  An easy conclusion given the dearth of meaningful agreement and progress by our executive leadership and legislative bodies both nationally and locally.

What is relevant to many Americans may be their circle of Facebook friends; their network of peers that has fluidly built up over fast and dramatic change; their local schools, parks, streets; their own health status and the health of their environment; their own ability to live the life they want and hoped for.  The connection between those desires and pleasures has little to do with what the President and Congress do.

We live in a time of tremendous fundamental change.  We see it in our economic structures that have caused the vast decline of whole industries.  We see it in the increasing threat of global warming and climate disruption.  We see it in the maturation and spread of robotics.  We see it in our tools for communication and learning.  Perhaps the 2016 U.S. election, and similar elections in other parts of the world, are simply indicators of another aspect of fundamental global change.  A fundamental change in how we organize and govern ourselves as people of one world.

Sermon Thoughts, Lakewood Pres Aug. 28, 2016

Dave Alger addressed the reading from Genesis 18:1-10. It’s the story of Abraham and Sarah having three travelers stop by their tent and Abraham welcoming them with open arms and providing food, drink, and shady respite. And, we discover some passages later, that the three travelers are Yahweh and two angels.

So Rev. Alger titled his homily “The Strange Thing About Strangers.” And it was a wonderful sharing of insight into the story. An insight that moved the listener to a wider acceptance of humanity, of the strangers we meet. An insight that recognized that opening ourselves to the strangers around us yields bounteous value for both us and the strangers. For humanity and community.

I was privileged to have “Sunday Dinner” with David and his lovely wife, Sally, after the service. And we talked some more about his words. His insight.

My wife, Chris, shared that David’s comments led her to reach out to the stranger at the end of our pew, a young woman named Jennifer who is in line to replace Michael Clark as our musical accompanist during Sunday services. And in conversing with the stranger Jennifer, Chris and I discovered that she worked some years back with our youngest daughter Sarah. Sarah is now in Kansas working toward her bachelor’s degree and Jennifer shared that she has followed Sarah on Facebook.

What a small world! But how wonderful is the strange thing about strangers. The stranger, whether it’s Jennifer at the end of our pew, or the traveler (Yahweh), often turns out to not be such a stranger after all. In one way or another, the stranger is known to us; is a colleague of ours.

By closing the door on strangers, foreigners, we close the door on friends-of-friends, relatives that we may have never know but who share a common bond with us. Above all else, that common bond is that we are all humans. We are all residents of the same small globe that circles through space and ever so carefully nurtures our lives, hopes, and dreams.

The strange thing about strangers is that most of the time they really aren’t strangers. Love them. Embrace them. Just like Abraham and Sarah did.

Small pieces (yaks) (very) loosely joined

My concept of the value and power of the internet rests largely on the idea that it is basically many small pieces loosely joined. That idea embraces the use of small, single-purpose widgets that can stand alone, which makes it easy to build and test the widgets. Then it combines them by being joined, but they are loosely joined– there are not lots of dependencies on other included pieces.

The joining makes the overall result very robust and powerful. The small pieces make it very flexible and easy to manage.

That works for the internet itself, and works very well.

But we seem to have major difficulty making the same model work for other systems. I used to think it was just me and my own limited skills at programming and system design. (The “pieces+joined” is almost the antithesis of “system design” but that’s another story….)

And then I came across this gem on today’s O’Reilly’s “Four Short Links.”  Jeffries’ experience struck me as my life on a pretty much daily basis.

So why does the internet work but when Jeffries– or poor slobs like me– try to work with the same model, we end up neck deep in yaks?  I don’t have a ready answer for that but one possibility that immediately comes to mind is the use of standards.  The internet, and it’s child the web, work because there are clearly articulated and enforced standards that you have to follow, else your application won’t work.

But the likes of Google App Engine and python (substitute your favorite environment tools here), don’t follow the same clear articulation of standards.  Depending on what gib repository you use or what options you use when installing python and it’s many libraries or your own development structure, using someone else’s sample code may or may not work right.  You are just as likely to end up with a room full of yaks as a working tool.

Just an early morning thought dump…

RIP hitchBOT, Long Live hitchBOT

So hitchBOT apparently met it’s demise in the city of Brotherly Love. But it did what it set out to do:

“We want to see what people do with this kind of technology when we leave it up to them,” Frauke Zeller, one of the creators and an assistant professor in professional communication at Toronto’s Ryerson University, told the AP. “It’s an art project in the wild — it invites people to participate.”

And as hitchBOT itself said, “I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots!”

I fully expect that hitchBOT Jr. will rise soon. After all, that is the pattern of the humans who originally brought hitchBOT to our presence.

Thank you hitchBOT for your wonderful journey and thanks for what has been and what will become!